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An Historical Document, A Stunning Interpretation, Dated Video & SoundJuly 12 2007
J Scott Morrison
- Published on Amazon.com
How many stars to assign to this DVD? A difficult decision. On the one hand Sergiu Celibidache's conception of Berlioz's orchestral masterpiece, the Symphonie Fantastique, is stunning. But the playing of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI is problematic as are both the grainy black and white video and the monophonic sound recording that is dated even for 1969.
Back to the interpretation: First, Celibidache gets remarkably varied dynamics from the orchestra and actually achieves fairly good balance even considering that the relatively small string complement is overbalanced by the quadruple winds, and the brass are kept in reasonable check but still manage to be thrilling in the climaxes. Tempi are generally fairly restrained. 'Rêveries - Passions' is exquisitely painted; the orchestra, largely by subtle and generally soft dynamics, characterize the poet's dreams of his beloved. 'Un bal' depicts the poet's intercurrent obsessions with the inamorata as he goes about his daily routine. 'Scène aux champs' is delicately pictured and there is some gorgeous wind playing, not least by the cor anglais. Celi resists the temptation to make the 'Marche au supplice' the (simply) brilliant orchestral showpiece it is often made to be at least partly by keeping a steady slower than usual treading pace, which underlines its serious meaning -- a doleful procession in which the poet is dragged to the scaffold, making all the more horrific the poet's vivid hallucinations -- terror rather than grotesquerie. In the ghostly 'Songe d'une Nuit du Sabbat' Celi keeps the initial tempi rather restrained, making the final accelerando all the more exciting. (A pity the tubular bells in this final section are a hair under pitch.)
One could only wish that Celibidache had had a better orchestra as well as more modern sound and video. But as he was not filmed in concert all that much (as far as I know, at any rate), it is valuable to see him conducting and to have some idea of his conception of this cornerstone of Romantic orchestral literature. I suspect, though, this DVD will be primarily for hardcore Celibidache admirers and for students of conducting.
Sound: digitally remastered two-track mono; Picture: Black & White, 4:3 format; All regions; TT:58 mins.